(Deletes reference to "energy customers" in 1st paragraph;
changes "sales" to "orders" in 5th paragraph)
By Ernest Scheyder
April 19 Strong sales to aviation customers
helped General Electric Co's first-quarter revenue beat
Wall Street expectations on Friday, assuaging fears of a miss
after a lukewarm report on March U.S. factory activity.
The world's biggest maker of jet engines and electric
turbines said revenue rose slightly to $35 billion, surpassing
the $34.51 billion analysts had expected, according to Thomson
"That is a beat on revenue, and that's important because the
Street has been very worried about revenue numbers at industrial
firms because the quarter appears to have tailed off in March,"
said Jack DeGan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory
Corp in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which owns GE shares.
The Institute for Supply Management said earlier this month
that U.S. factory activity grew at the slowest rate in three
months in March, suggesting the economy lost some momentum at
the end of the first quarter.
While investors and analysts await more information on sales
from GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt on an earnings conference
call, GE said in a statement that orders from aviation customers
jumped 47 percent and orders from energy customers rose 24
percent in the quarter.
GE's order backlog - a closely watched indicator of future
sales - rose to $216 billion from $210 billion in the fourth
quarter of 2012. Backlog can be a positive sign that customers
are willing to wait in line for a company's products, or a sign
that a company is having a hard time meeting demand. GE's
backlog has grown consistently in recent quarters.
"To me, when you see a trend, year over year, repeating
itself, there's a business management issue. Eventually, that's
got to change," said Oliver Pursche, president of Gary Goldberg
Financial Services, which owns GE shares.
GE said European sales have been weaker than expected,
offset by strength in emerging markets. The company said it will
slash costs by $1 billion this year, part of an effort to offset
"We expect our cost-out efforts will mitigate weakness in
specific markets, and we have a very strong cash position,"
Immelt said in a statement.
Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE said it earned $3.53
billion, or 34 cents per share, in the quarter, compared with
$3.03 billion, or 29 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding one-time items, profit was 35 cents per share,
matching analysts' average forecast, according to Thomson
GE shares fell 1.2 percent to $22.40 in premarket trading.
The stock has gained 8 percent so far this year.
(Reporting By Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and John